The temperature outside is chilly. Close to freezing, perhaps.

It’s daytime and you’re parked in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the great outdoors. But you’re on a camping trip. What do you do to keep yourself warm at night? 

You’re probably asking yourself “Do RV furnaces run on electricity?”

Most RV furnaces run on gas instead of electricity. When you run out of propane, your RV runs out of heat as well. But that’s not the full story.

We know that the dashboard heaters don’t function when the RV’s engine is not running. And even if they are, they may not be able to provide enough heat throughout the night.

And it’s not good to run your engine all night, is it?

Well, the cold season usually doesn’t stop us RVers from hitting the road. The great outdoors is for us to enjoy even when it’s not summer. 

Heaters are life savers. They provide the warmth we need when it’s freezing outside.

But what do they run on? Do furnaces in RV’s run on electricity?

First things first, almost all RVs have built-in heaters that run on propane but are mostly going to need electricity to ignite. Some HVAC systems may also have an electric heater on board the RV.

So to answer the question, most RV furnaces run on gas instead of electricity. When you run out of propane, your RV runs out of heat as well.

On the other hand, more and more RVers have switched to other alternatives such as electric RV furnace, portable heaters, and even solar heating systems. 

Do RV Water Heaters Run on Electricity?

RV water heaters are very convenient, giving you hot water wherever you go.

They function more like the water heater you have at home but are technically smaller.

RV water heaters have storage capacity of 6 to 10 gallons of water. When heated, the water is mixed with cold water and can then deliver as much as 16 gallons of hot water.

The question is: Do these heaters run on electricity?

The answer is no.

Traditional water heaters of an RV operate in a way that its cycle is constantly going on and off to keep the water in the tank hot. 

This process goes on even when hot water is not being used, which means it will constantly use up your propane.

Because of this, tankless water heaters (link to Amazon) are becoming more popular among RVers. They work the same way as residential tankless heaters and provide hot water in an instant.

These heaters only use propane when in use, and because it reduces the need for fossil fuel, there is a growing number of RVers taking this alternative even though it’s a bit expensive.

And to give you more idea on RV water heaters, they have 3 main fuel source options.

  • Liquid Propane – Most basic models have water heaters that run only on liquid propane.
  • Electricity and Liquid Propane – A vast number of RVs operate on both electricity and liquid propane, which is the most convenient source of power.
  • Motoraid – It’s basically using the heat from the RV’s engine to make your water hot. The water is circulated through the pipes in the water heater and is heated while doing so.

How Long Will RV Furnace Run on Propane?

Given that most RV furnaces run on propane, it’s important to understand how much of it is needed to keep your rig warm.

Generally, the amount of propane a furnace needs depends on how big your furnace is. 

In short, the bigger the furnace, the more propane you need to keep it running.

This is going to be a little bit technical, but a gallon of propane has a burn rate of about 90,000 to 100,000 BTUs per hour.

An average-sized furnace of an RV is said to burn about ⅓ gallon propane while continuously running for an hour.

Simply put, a gallon of propane runs for about 3 hours of continuous use of the furnace.

If you want to reduce the use of propane, explore how you can increase the efficiency of your furnace.

Make sure that there aren’t any leaks that allow the cold wind to come into your RV. Use window covers. Things like this may seem insignificant but trust me, they make a really huge difference.

How to Heat an RV Without Propane?

As I said, it’s good to explore things that can help increase the efficiency of your furnace and reduce the use of propane.

But let’s say you’re running really low on propane and have to save it for later, how do you heat without propane?

Here are some tips.

  • Keep yourself warm by wearing warm clothes and socks. Thermal underwear does wonders.
  • Make use of hot water bottles when sleeping at night. This is very easy to prepare and will bring additional heat.
  • Use an electric blanket. If not available, pile up on regular blankets or quilts.
  • Insulate the vents and the shower skylight to help keep the heat inside the RV.
  • Keep the doors and windows closed.
  • Throw in some rugs or carpet to keep the floor warm.
  • Plug up the leaks to keep the cold air from coming in.
  • Use window covers and shades to avoid cold drafts.
  • Consider alternative heat sources such as solar panels and space heaters.

Do RV Air Conditioners Run on Propane?

So we’ve talked about furnace running on propane. While we might get the wrong notion that air conditioners work the same, they actually don’t!

Air conditioning runs off around 110-115VAC using either shore power or generator. It does not operate on battery or propane. There are some other ways to cool your RV, check them out here!

I’ve looked around and saw questions on why air conditioners couldn’t operate on propane. It seems that the size of the burner and coil are too large to get that much cooling, thus it needs electricity to run.


Camping in the cold season doesn’t have to be hard and costly. There are several ways to keep yourself warm even with minimal use of propane.

As always, it’s good to consider other options instead of spending too much on fossil fuel. 

You can definitely heat without propane, so you don’t have to continuously run your furnace all night long.

Consider alternative heat sources for a more cost-effective adventure.